My challenge as an educator is to ensure that students gain the theoretical and literature base of a topic while also developing their capabilities to use that knowledge in their future careers. To that end I try to design activities and assignments that require the student to transpose their knowledge in to a new form that they might encounter in their working lives. Below are a few assignments I’ve used to support this goal, with an explanation about each.
SOCI 2100 – Social Problems (Year 2, Winter Semester)
First In Class Activity: This activity is worth only a small percentage of a student’s overall mark, and takes place in the second week of class. Beyond the learning outcomes related to understanding the various theoretical underpinnings of the course, this activity forces students to work with people they may not have met before (we have a number of students transfer in in the second year), and shows them the value of being able to communicate their ideas to other people. I play the Minister, and at the end of the activity they have five minutes to brief me about what they learned.
SOCI2100 Research Paper Winter 2017: This research paper builds on the first in class activity and asks the student to pretend the Deputy Minister they’re interning for just saw a news story and wants a briefing note on their desk ASAP. The great thing about this paper is that it forces students to seek out policy responses to social problems, and then create new potential responses to that problem based on what they’ve learned from the literature. The students also get to be creative because they’re instructed to provide three possible solutions to the Deputy Minister, where one is symbolic but won’t fix anything, one is practical and feasible, and one is pie in the sky outlandish. The paper is only two pages long, helping students develop concise writing styles.
CRIM 2002 – Victims in the Criminal Justice System
(Year 2, Fall Semester)
Group Project and Major Assignment: In this assignment students work in a group to identify a policy, program, or law from outside of Ontario that has been developed to support a specific type of victim. They are then asked to compare this to any similar programs in Ontario, and identify how we might bring such a program to the province. In this way the students get to examine policies from around the world and translate the implementation mechanisms in to a format compatible with Ontario’s system of government and political reality. The students start by presenting this idea to the class, and have to be able to justify their position in the face of often very challenging questions from their classmates. After this the students prepare a briefing document for legislators and bureaucrats.
CRIM 2003 – Youth and Crime (Year 2, Fall Semester)
Creative Critique Assignment: In this assignment students take a policy, program, or piece of legislation related to young people in the criminal justice system and creatively critique the idea. Some students have painted pictures, some have made posters, some wrote poetry, and some recorded a public service announcement radio ad.